The second Mitsubishi MRJ90 (FTA-2) took to the air for its first flight Tuesday from Nagoya Airport in Japan, launching the latest phase in a flight-test program expected to cover 2,500 hours of flying by five prototypes. In a statement issued just after the conclusion of the flight, Mitsubishi Aircraft and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) reported that FTA-2 confirmed its basic characteristics and functionality in airspace off the Pacific Coast. The companies plan to use FTA-2 primarily to confirm the model’s performance specifications, they added.
“As with the first flight conducted with MRJ’s FTA-1 in November of last year, we had a quiet, smooth first flight with FTA-2,” said Mitsubishi Aircraft president Hiromichi Morimoto. “After this, we will move ahead smoothly with development of the subsequent flight-test aircraft, and make our utmost efforts towards type certificate acquisition and the first delivery.”
Mitsubishi Aircraft and MHI hope to advance the start of flight testing of the first MRJ90 at Grant County International Airport at Moses Lake in Washington State from the fourth quarter of this year to some time in the summer, raising the possibility that it could gain certification as much as two months earlier than the official delivery target of mid-2018. Speaking with AIN during May’s Regional Airline Association Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, Mitsubishi Aircraft head of strategic marketing Hideyuki Kamiya reported that since MRJ FTA-1 resumed flight testing in Japan in February, results have proved encouraging enough to consider ferrying the airplane to the U.S. ahead of schedule.
“To expedite to the summer, if we continue to see flight testing go smoothly, and if we get approval [from the U.S. FAA and Japan’s JCAB], it’s not such a difficult target I think,” said Kamiya.
Mitsubishi flew the first flight-test aircraft three times last November before withdrawing the machine from operation to incorporate planned structural and systems changes. In late January, Mitsubishi revealed details of the strengthening modifications, deemed necessary after static test results begun in May 2015 indicated a weakness in the airframe and wing attachment. As a result, it installed additional “plates” to reinforce original parts on the center wing box. Mitsubishi then changed the design for the production airplanes to account for more robust parts.
All told, Mitsubishi plans to ferry four of the five flight-test articles to the U.S., while the fifth—painted in the livery of launch customer ANA—performs autopilot testing in Japan. As FTV 1 and 2 perform functional and performance testing, plans call for FTA-3 to test flight characteristics and avionics and for FTA-4 to perform interior, noise and anti-icing trials. The company plans to use FTA-5 for autopilot tests.
Processing of flight-test data will take place at Mitsubishi’s engineering center in Seattle, established last August in collaboration with locally based AeroTec specifically to administer MRJ testing in the U.S.
Kamiya said early fuel burn tests validated claimed consumption rates, and that the test pilots reported that handling characteristics have proved “better” than what they experienced in the simulator.